Health IT

Epidemiologist uses analytics to help hospitals assess antibiotic stewardship

Dan Peterson is an epidemiologist and entrepreneur who started a company last year, Teqqa, to help physicians and healthcare facilities decide which antibiotics they should prescribe for their patients. Its first product — iAntibiogram — is an analytics tool for clinical decision support. It comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s push to improve […]

Dan Peterson is an epidemiologist and entrepreneur who started a company last year, Teqqa, to help physicians and healthcare facilities decide which antibiotics they should prescribe for their patients. Its first product — iAntibiogram — is an analytics tool for clinical decision support. It comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s push to improve antibiotic stewardship.

Here’s how it works. It gives an assessment of the provider’s current antimicrobial usage and identifies the best interventions. It also offers subsequent assessments to track effectiveness and to help providers re-focus their program as needed. It provides reports of antibiotics usage by individual physicians, adjusted for physician specialties and patient mix. It also gives a better understanding of the direct and indirect costs of antibiotics for each hospital, including the number of days patients spend in the ICU, total length of stay in the hospital and re-admissions. It also includes the impact on patients, such as adverse drug events, rates of c.difficile and mortality.

In a phone interview with Peterson, he explained that this was not the first time he tackled the need for better antibiotic stewardship and infectious disease control. He started a company in 1998 called Cereplex where he developed Web-based applications, including ones for hospital-acquired infections control and antibiotic management. It was one of a handful of companies taking on similar challenges at the time. It was acquired by Premier in 2006. But although the technology was welcomed, it was a tough sell because it couldn’t be easily integrated. Electronic medical records weren’t in wide use by hospitals at that time, so the kind of infrastructure required for hospitals to use this decision tool effectively was not yet in place.

This time around, Peterson said it wants to integrate with EMRs.

The business of antibiotics has been a vexing issue for the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and government agencies. Each acknowledges that antibiotics are overprescribed and that’s produced the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that providers contend with today. But the educated guessing game that physicians need to do to respond to infectious diseases, usually before they can know precisely which virus caused the infection, is at the heart of the problem. Teqqa and other businesses offer a way to prevent a bad situation from worsening through health IT support.

One reason why pharmaceutical companies’ pipelines have dried up is the poor return antibiotics produce. Given the cost of developing new drugs, and the length of time it takes to get to market, antibiotics don’t deliver the same return on investment because they’re designed to be prescribed as infrequently as possible.

The next stage for Teqqa is a more personalized approach to antibiotic assessment that adds factors such as the patient’s age and where the patient has lived, such as a skilled nursing facility.

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Peterson said doctors like the idea because it involves putting data they may already have to use. Also, while the best treatment for a heart attack may be the same around the world, prescribing drugs to treat infectious diseases tends to  involve many more factors.